Thesis: Preliminary Introduction and Problem Statement

Introduction It's four in the afternoon and I'm standing in the middle of downtown Richmond. I lock up my bike and start walking around a bit, looking for a good spot. This is probably the hardest moment in my project. Doubt creeps in and part of me wants to come up with a good reason not to do any of this. I take my out my tripod and put on the camera and microphone. I start trying to set a good frame and with some white chalk put a mark on the sidewalk in order to let people know where they should stand. I take out my sign. It reads "Do you have anything worth saying?" in orange Futura Bold. It's a very open question, meant to be interpreted in many ways, but it is (at least for me) a very meaningful question. I start approaching people with my sign, asking them if they have 'anything worth saying'. Most people ignore me. I'm used to it. A lot of them tell me they're late for something. It's incredible how unpunctual people are these days. When they do answer, their answers are sometimes unsurprising and fall into a couple of categories: pseudo self-help, basic human values and humor. I'm not at all disappointed in these answers. I try to respect each individual's own narrative. Sometimes, someone is able to surprise me. They are able to show their human depth and their authenticity through their sincerity to the camera. Those are the ones that seem to satisfy me the most. In these projects, my intentions are many, I want to start talking to people. I want them to surprise me. I want to question them and challenge them. I want to have a conversation with my surroundings, a conversation that can lead me to find the unexpected. I have no pre-conceived purpose. I have some ideas about how this might all end up, but they are not important. I wish for my project to reveal themselves to me. Strangely enough, I feel i'm somehow well-suited to do all this. Not everyone is willing to stand in the middle of the street to be constantly rejected by people. I've been told the only reason I can pull it off is because I'm so unthreatening. My background in Psychology has led me to believe in the intricacies and complexities of the individual, while understanding its inherent complexities. At the same time, I'm a programmer interested in the language of computation. This interest has led me to appreciate the richness of my surroundings and its inherent narratives, specially in contrast with the computational realm. I think my projects show this appreciation. Problem Statement I believe that making can be a process of encountering the unexpected. In the search for the unexpected, I am able to create work that is outside the limits of my own imagination. By setting processes in motion, by which I surrender control over a final outcome, I can expand the possibilities of my own work. At the same time, I can challenge my own role as the initiator of the work which becomes a lens that enables a conversation with the world. My work encompasses a variety of processes that lead me to this conversation. Most start with a set of instructions that I carry out. "Walk down to Pony Pastures Park and take 1 picture every minute of your walk". Sometimes they are based on people giving me instructions. "Act like a gorilla for two minutes". Yet for others, I write instructions to be executed by other individuals or by a machine. "Do you have anything Worth Saying?". These instructional catalysts are based on my own desire to question rather than to answer and are not intended to provide a final work. Rather, they aim to provide a journey, a wandering by which I arrive at somewhere I wasn't expecting. In this way, I am able to take more holistic approach to making. Of particular importance is encouraging narratives to arise by themselves as a direct result of my process. Many times, these take the form of a set of instructions or a question. The results are often unscripted and unforeseen, an integral part of my search for the unexpected. ( A more extensive definition of narrative is needed here) These ideas are increasingly relevant to graphic design. Design, as a discipline, focuses on answering, rather than questioning. Through my work, I propose a certain distance between the designer's work and the designer. I attempt to renounce control over a final outcome and renounce control over a narrative. While seeing the expectation of my own instructions, I attempt to exert control over the instructions, not the final result. Through this way of working, I position myself as an initiator. This might be contrasted to the idea of the 'maker', who continually exerts control throughout the process and is the main channel by which a design process is executed. As an initiator, I see my role as a catalyst for the process that is channeled through other entities. Initially, my work was very influenced by generative design, design in which the output is determined by an algorithm. I felt that the idea of creating systems to produce design seemed very powerful. Initially, I attempted to create such systems, but I grew increasingly disillusioned with these ideas. I started trying to go back to the physical world. After some time, I started to question the role of chance in my work and started researching the work of John Cage who turned out to be the most influential precedent in the latter part of my thesis. In his own work, Cage was not very interested in what he created, but what he got from the process of making. A way to explain these ideas is what he called "purposeful purposelessness". The purpose of his pieces was precisely the lack of purpose, which lead him to his artistic wanderings. His prepared piano, for example, made him relinquish control over his instrument in order to make sound that was both unexpected, but a result of his own process. His most famous piece, 4'33", was a way to let his surroundings dictate his music, rather than the other way around.

Videos: People On the Street

If anything could happend at the end of the day, what would it be? Fifty People, One Question: New York from Fifty People, One Question on Vimeo. Where do you wish to wake up? Fifty People, One Question: London from Fifty People, One Question on Vimeo.

Purpose and Surrender of Control in the Work of John Cage

You can also see this document in PDF with citations and Images John Cage was one of the 20th Century’s most important composers. His attitude towards music was profoundly avant-garde and his work changed the limits and definitions of what experimental music could be. These views developed over many decades, as they become more and more profound. His famous compositions like 4’33” are well known, yet readily understood. This paper aims to address not only his music, but the ideas behind his compositions, and his views on life. 4’33” and Composing with Noise A lot of Cage’s ideas are exemplified in one of his most famous pieces: 4’33”. In this composition, the performer is instructed not to play a single note for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. The audience hears only the sounds of the surroundings and this is precisely what is intended of the piece. “4’33” is not a negation of music but an affirmation of its omnipresence.” Cage made no distinction between music and noise, ultimately believing that there was no such thing as noise. Music is everywhere. When he talked about music, he used the term ‘music’ to mean all sounds, including noise, and even silence. Cage, for example, talked about the ‘noise’ of traffic as music. He found this music to be much more interesting than Beethoven’s, or any other composer’s music, because traffic is different every time. It cannot be repeated. This is in contrast to the way in which music and composing are traditionally seen and heard, as fixed pieces that don’t change. As a composer, he believed that his role was to consider these sounds as the basis of his music. His intent was to compose with sounds as they were, rather than to shape them to his own will. As a composer he lived by the mantra of “Let Sounds be Sounds”. His compositions did not impose a specific order on sounds and noise, but rather took them as they were. His compositions aspired to find ways in which unexpected noises/sounds/music could emerge. As an extension of his views on music, Cage also talked about how silence does not exist. Cage heard music everywhere and could not foresee an instance in which there was a lack of music. At every moment, he argued, we can hear something. At every moment, there is music. Cage became specially convinced of this after visiting an anechoic chamber, a chamber that is completely sound proof. Even in this chamber he found there was no absence of sounds. “Being able to hear, in a soundproof room, sounds from this blood circulation and from his nervous system, Cage proved to himself that silence could not be an absence of sounds.” It is this experience that most profoundly shaped his view on silence and it is this experience that made 4’33” conceptually possible. Without this overwhelming belief in music, 4’33” and its underlying ideas would have never come to fruition. In this composition, the lack of an intentional, pre-defined set of sounds performed by a series of musicians is not an impediment for the audience to hear music. 4’33” affirmed Cage’s strong belief in the omnipresence of music. The Prepared Piano An earlier example of Cage’s philosophy in relation to music and his role as a composer, was the creation and use of the prepared piano. In a prepared piano, objects are placed between or on top the instrument’s strings. In this way, the sounds created by the instrument are different from those normally expected. Since a great variety of objects can be placed inside the piano, the possibilities of music are almost limitless. More importantly, the performer opens himself or herself to the unexpected, thus making each instance of a piece unique in its own way. The prepared piano came to be out of necessity. In the early 1940’s, Cage was working mostly on composing for percussion, since this was instrumentation that was closest to his conceptual interests. In 1942, Cage moved from Chicago to New York and he did not have the money to bring his percussion instruments with him. When he received a commission for a piece, he started trying to recreate the conditions of percussion in a piano. That’s when Cage started placing objects (mostly pieces of rubber and screws) into the strings of the piano. The instructions by which the piano was prepared would become an explicit part of his compositions. He would instruct the performer where these pieces were to be located, what pieces to use, and even, what specific Steinway pianos could be used (since different pianos resulted in different sounds). An example of this type of composition is Sonatas and Interludes, a set of 20 pieces inspired by his emerging interest in Indian philosophy. In Sonata V, the sounds of the piano are completely transformed. The keys that have been altered (not all keys are) now sound like individual instruments each with a sound that is completely different from the original sound of a piano. The result was music that sounded as if a complete ensemble was playing. The use of this instrument can be seen as a beginning to Cage’s later questioning of the role of control in his own compositions. At this point, Cage exerted a lot of control over the sounds emitted by the prepared piano giving detailed instructions about its preparation, yet there is an openness the unpredictability and lack of control of the sounds made by this instrument, at least in relation to the more common intent of making all notes in a piano sound as expected. There is still a great distance in these works from what would eventually become 4’33” and similar pieces, but their origins can be seen in the prepared piano and in the Sonatas and Interludes. Intentions and Work as Question Through many of his pieces (including 4’33”), there is an underlying desire in Cage to question the role of intention in a musical work. “Cage’s most important compositions of the past three decades have been conceived to deny his intentional desires as completely as possible.” It is this feature that what makes his work radically different from so many before him. Cage constantly tried to surrender as much intention as possible form his work. He used the term “purposeful purposelessness” as a way to describe what he saw as the ‘purpose’ of his art. He did have a purpose in the creation of his music and his art, but the purpose was based on the generation of questions rather than on providing answers. To a certain extent, his purpose might be interpreted as the purpose to find a purpose. This might seem a contradictory tautology, but through his work Cage intended to find something deeper than his intentions. He wanted to have a conversation with his work that would lead to a process of discovery. Art, to Cage, was not a way to communicate his ideas, but rather, a way in which these ideas could be communicated to him (and to his audience). “If, from the Renaissance on, art has been regarded as a means of communication, Cage instead defined art as self-alteration, a means to sober up the mind.” For Cage, the lack of intention in his work (or his ‘purposeful purposefulness’) explains something much deeper about his views on art. The work of the artist (in Cage’s view) is a process of questioning, rather than of providing answers. It is because of this, that Cage utilized chance operations (to name one of his many processes). “Most people who believe that I’m interested in chance don’t realize that I use chance as discipline. They think I use it - I don’t know as a way of giving up making choices. But my choices constitute what questions to ask.” His use of chance operations were a way in which Cage could ask questions of nature and to have nature respond back. His interest was not in a lack of control for its own sake, but rather as an expression of a deep humility towards admitting an incomplete knowledge about nature, and the desire and curiosity to find out. “That there is an overriding harmony in everything he created accords with Cage’s belief in the essential, if unknowable, order in nature, as revealed by his chance operations.” Unpredictable Outcomes Through most of Cage’s work, we find a desire to create compositions in which the outcome is unpredictable and all performances are unique. For Cage, the lack of clear and direct intentions in his work was a way to ensure that the outcome of his work could become unpredictable. The result of his chance operations would be as much of a surprise to him as it would be to his audience. “For Cage, the outcome of a fully structured piece is predictable and therefore occludes the act of performing with memories of definitive readings.” In other words, there is no point in performing a piece if the outcome is already known. In Cage’s compositions, the performance is the moment in which that particular instance of a piece is created. Music then becomes and endeavor that, in and of itself, has no predictable outcome, but speaks to us at a much more deeper level. Music begins to mirror unpredictability of life itself. An example of this type of work is Imaginary Landscapes #4, a piece for 24 musicians in which the musicians split up in to 12 pairs, each pair holding on radio. For each radio, one performer controls the tuner while the other controls the volume. The tuning and volume are dictated by the score of the piece, yet the performers have no control about what is actually coming out of the radio. While certain variables of the piece are determined by the score, most of the piece is unpredictable. Since the music depends on what is being transmitted by the radio at that specific moment, the location (the city or region in which it is performed) and time of day are important factors on the final performance. Also, because of the nature of the radio, it is impossible to completely replicate an instance of the performance, even if it’s performed in the same place and at the same time. The Role of the Audience, The Role of the Artist and Views on Art One of Cage’s main preoccupations was the audience and its role in relation to the performer. In Cage’s work, as in 4’33”, the traditional role of the audience is deeply challenged. “The listener does not stand outside the experience in order to describe it, analyze and understand it, but co-creates and undergoes it.” The audience is not a passive entity who is privileged to witness the genius of the artist, but rather a group that performs with the performer, and composes with the composer. The composer, in Cages view, should not attempt to impose a particular meaning or understanding of a particular piece on the listener, but should instead require the listener to understand and appreciate the piece on their own terms. “The emptiness of 4’33” is filled by the listeners, whose focus must be open, free-flowing and capable of supplying his or her own meaning.” In this way, the listeners form an integral part of the piece they are experiencing. The composition is completed the moment the audience gets to experience it. Through this new type of work and through this new relationship to the audience, Cage dramatically challenged our understanding of the role of the artist. While, typically, the artist assumes a role of informing its audience by delivering a particular message through their work, Cage had no intention of doing this. He once said , perhaps half-jokingly, “I don’t want to spend my life being pushed around by a bunch of artists”. Rather, he regarded his art as a process of discovery. Art is a praxis by which he could learn about nature. Through this exploration of nature, the artist and the audience share, not so much an experience of acquisition of knowledge, but of “sobering up the mind.” Communication from the artist to the audience was is secondary, if important at all. “If art has been regarded as a giver of truth through the ‘self-expressed individuality of the artist’ Cage saw it rather as an exploration of how nature itself functions as a means to open the mind and spirit to the beauty of life with a minimum of expression or interpretation.” Connections with Eastern Understandings of Art and Spirituality Throughout most of Cage’s work and his ideas on art, there is a very strong influence of Eastern philosophy, spirituality and the aesthetic ideas of Wabi-sabi. In the book, “Wabi-sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers” Leonard Koren provides a comparison between Wabi-sabi (An ancient Japanese philosophy of life and art) and Middle Modernism (the minimalist style in architecture and product design that surged after the Second World War). Koren contends that Wabi-sabi was very influenced by Zen Buddhism.”The initial inspiration for Wabi-sabi’s metaphysical, spiritual and moral principles come from ideas about simplicity, naturalness, and acceptance of reality found in Taoism and Chinese Zen Buddhism.” These ideas shared by both, Wabi-sabi and Zen Buddhism, are also very clear in Cage’s work. Koren explains that Wabi-sabi “believes in the fundamental uncontrollability of nature”, is “one-of-a-kind”, and implies “people adapting to nature”. On the other hand, Middle Modernism “believes in the control of nature”, is “mass-produced, and implies “people adapting to machines”. In Cage’s piece, 4’33” almost all of these ideas related to Wabi-sabi are demonstrated. First of all, there is no control of what that final piece is. When the performer plays the piece, the outcome is totally dependent on nature and the environment. The performer does not seek control of what is happening and cannot control nature. Second, because each performance of the piece depends on the state of the environment at a particular time and place. Each instance of 4’33” is inherently different. Finally, since the performer just lets the sounds of the environment be, the performance is a collaboration between the performer and the audience to adapt to nature and adapt to the circumstances of the environment at one particular moment. The similarities between Eastern aesthetics (using Koren’s description of Wabi-sabi) and Cage’s work are very clear, but Cage’s connection to Eastern thought goes much deeper than the formal aspects of his work. His whole conception of what music is and what it should do is founded on Eastern principles. More specifically, it is based on Gita Sarabhai’s (An Indian composer and contemporary to Cage) conception of music. “The view of art as a form of spiritual discipline reflected in Cage’s new formulation of the purpose of music, given to him by Sarabhai: ‘To sober and quiet the mind, thus rendering it susceptible to divine influences’.” Art then becomes a spiritual journey by which an individual is able to shorten the distance between himself/herself and nature. Music, for Cage, is an attempt to become one with nature. Conclusion Cage’s work and ideas changed the way we view music and the possibilities of music. His life and career show an exceptional development and constant questioning. While at first glance, Cage’s ideas seem related to music, they embody a much more profound meaning. Cage was involved, not only in the process of questioning how music is created, but questioning the role of the performer and the audience, the connection of art and life and, ultimately, view on life itself. For Cage, All these thing are interconnected.   Bibliography Cage, John. Composition in Retrospect. Cambridge: Exact Change, 1993. Clarkson, Austin. “The Intent of the Musical Moment.” In Writings through John Cage’s Music Poetry, and Art, edited by David W. Bernstein and Christopher Hatch, 62-112. Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 2001. De Visscher, Eric. ““There is no such thing as silence...”: John Cage’s Petics of Silence (1991).” In Writings about John Cage, edited by Richard Kostelanetz,  117-133. Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press, 1993. Koren, Leonard. Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers. Berkely, California: Stone Bridge Press, 1994. Kostelanetz, Richard. W“Beginining with Cage (1979).” In Writings about John Cage, edited by Richard Kostelanetz, 8-12. Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press, 1993. Constance LeWallen, “Cage and the Structure of Chance.” In Writings through John Cage’s Music Poetry, and Art, ed. David W. Bernstein and Christopher Hatch. Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 2001. James Pritchett, The Music of John Cage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

7 Weeks W/O Meds

The last couple of months, I have been constantly looking for stories, looking for things with their own narratives, with meaning. Walking down the street the other day, I found a planner. In it, an unknown stranger had written down her whole life. Dinners, doctor's appointments, camping trips, meetings. Initially, I thought I would  try to return it back and took it to my studio, but very quickly I figured out that the best chance for this person to find this planner would be for me to leave where I found out. I quickly went to my studio and scanned every single page in it. Half of the months on the planner were clipped. On one of those pages was the phrase "7 weeks w/o meds", which I decided to use as my title, because of what I thought it said about the owner of this planner. The rest, I decided to keep between the planner and its owner. I went back and put it where I found it. If its owner ever found it, I will never know. The book is a reframing of these findings. As the author, I present these pages to the reader for/her to make his/her own conclusions and stories. Rather than providing one single story, I try to provide as many as possible in which you are able to meet the character of my story through reading the pages of this book, but my own narrative is never imposed on the reader. him

Shattering: Self Made Poster

Taking the remains from my shattering explorations, I decided to put them to some use. I grabbed a nice sheet of thick off-white paper and sprayed some glue on it. Afterwards I layed out all the broken glass on top of the sheet of paper. After about an hour, I lifted the paper. The resulting forms are a result of chance and gravity. They are a combination of the glass, broken by gravity and the adhesive power/lack of in the glue.


Taking on the idea of chance as an ignitor of making, I set up a process in which I would paint glass plates (conveniently bought at the nearest dollar store) and let them fall from about 8 feet up in the air. I would record the coalition with the floor and let gravity decided the form the pictures would take. In this way, natural forces, and not me dictate the form of the piece.   Here are some stills from the process:   Here is a video (parts of it are severely color 'corrected'):   Taking those as a starting point I started putting these sequence of images together to form new compositions.

I See Everything

This composition was created using 190 images taken from the observation deck of the Richmond City Hall. For every window, 3 pictures were taken: 1 of the horizon, one middle picture, and one last one as far down as possible. The pictures were later arranged starting with the horizon images, followed by the middle images. If you notice, you can see the sun setting at the left of the image, meaning that this was the west of the camera. The sun may rise in the east, but it settles in a finer location. In a way, you can see the whole world from this image, based on the fact that you can see everything from one single vantage point, including the horizon. The piece, more than anything, is a result of a set of very specific instructions, a specific methodology, I set onto myself. ( Please, please, please!!! See this Full-Size and Zoom into the Image!! )  

Future Ideas

October, 9, 2012: What if I created a script/program that would transform a word into visuals? Any string of words could be transformed into visuals? Encoding... What if I created a system in which people could input something and get a visual output? Space Database: if you created a database of all the elements in a space and then gave the user different ways of being able to sequentially experience that database... would the user get something meaningful out of this? Take a mosaic approach to all this... multiple voices in a single volume... Google Images: Endless loop... feed one image onto itself.. Creating a video that ask 'what is uniqueness', 'are you unique?', 'is everyone unique?' A film that structurally reflects the data Return to orality (as a way to make something unique), every email into video DNA is identity Movement encoded into text Video Dictionary, of a street, of my block Extend: Dots... include multiple images at once, instead of just one image Make people give me instructions to make a book I challenge you... Plato! (Challenging Plato's theory of Forms) Put a giant something(a coin) and try to look for its story... let people dictate its story Database of the dead... put a bunch of pictures of dead graves... Previous Thoughts: Data visualization as the connection between content and form Singularity/Plurality data viz deals with the issue in an interesting way From content to data How do we give meaning to the singular and the plural? It should be narrative Design is about adding layers of meaning, not taking them away That's what makes design human It's about engaging people Web design sucks because it doesn't take meaning into consideration Computers are good at remembering. Humans are good at grasping information. Data visualization is made to create understanding. I want to deal with different emotions. Give control to the user, as a way to make it unique Design of the preferences "If people cared about math, they wouldn't play the lottery" Looking for a process to play out

Walking, Walking, Walking

On a beautiful sunny day, I decided to walk from Pollack in VCU to Pony Pastures, at the other side of the James. I created a set of instructions that I would follow along the way as a way to document my journey. I decided that I would take 1 picture every minute of my walk, no matter where I was standing. Consequently I would carry a stopwatch with me, to remind me of when I had to take every picture. The results is what you see below. Through taking a picture every minute, I was able to set up a system, that almost by itself, would create a narrative of the journey I made. The narrative emerges from the sequence of images, because of the instructions I put on myself. Walking Walking Walking from Jorge Silva-Jetter on Vimeo.

Memento Mori

"Someday, I will die and do will you" This is a book about my death, about our death. Someday I will die, and so will you, so I made a book about it. Specifically, this is a book about my grave, your grave and how it might look like. I find this important, because this is where you will be for a very, very long time, yet we don't tend to think too much about our final resting place. See the PDF

Alternatives View on 'Walking, Walking, Walking'

Thinking of my video 'Walking, Walking, Walking', I decided to make a video in which the results weren't as predefined. For every frame of the video, for every picture I took during that walk, a script would randomly decide what type of information (regarding that image) would be shown. The alternatives were: The final image (the image I actually took) The filename The time it was taken The GPS position The position along the trajectory (with map) the position along the trajectory (with the trajectory drawn) The count/# of the frame in relation to the number of images Through the video, the viewer is able to grasp the experience of my walk (or not grasp it) in differente ways. Walking Walking Walking: Database from Jorge Silva-Jetter on Vimeo. I consider this video a failure because, even do I did what I set out to do, what I'm aiming for is to create something meaningful and narrative out of these videos. This video (at least to 'Walking, Walking, Walking'), impedes the process by which we create a narrative. At the same time, I do find it interesting that the video accentuates the fact that this is a database of events and shows itself in that manner. Minor details that could be fixed... Remove the Map from the possible alternatives, remove the frame from the trajectory, middle-align the text, make the text bigger

Floyd Avenue: Eternal Street

This video is an experimentation on visual structure, and how we can use the visual structure of an image creatively. In this video, photos of the same street are show at random order, but because of the relationship between them the viewer is able to perceive them as a continuos. Rather than trying to 'fool' the viewer, this is intended as an interesting way to structure a set of images, in which a specific meaning/interpretation is give to them by the way in which the system is setup. The system and its underlying rules give the video its specific meaning. Also, the video is intended to explore the way in which humans connect things. People create narratives, wether they are there or not. We experience the world through narratives and we tend to connect things without perceiving that they might have no relation. It might be argued that this video is an example of this. The view attributes certain relationships that are not accurate.

A Book That Makes Itself

I wish to make a book that would design itself. This book is generated by a script that goes on generating forms that are added and subtracted throughout the book. Every page, one more element is added, until the middle is reached. After that, one element is removed. The problem with this is that this is all pure form. There is no content, narrative or even inherent meaning. I like the way it looks. But it doesn't say anything. How can we make something that is generated say something substancial, without the meaning being already there? How can me generate narrative? See the PDF

A Book About: Jorge

In this simple book, I took all the mentions of 'Jorge' in all the long abstracts of wikipedia. I created a script that would automatically lay them out in a PDF in order to be printed. Can we say something about 'Jorge' with this book? What? Is this useful/interesting in any way? More than anything, I was trying to play around with different database and see if we could extract something meaningful from the, while keep the micro/macro relationship more respectful of a particular node. At the end, this is really not a final piece, just a stepping stone to something else. See the Text (PDF)

W.F.S.: A database turned into a video

As a way to represent West Franklin Street in Richmond,VA, I (along with Ru Zheng) decided to take multiple videos/sounds of the street. In a way, creating a database of the street. Subsequently, we created a 'soundtrack' to the street, visualizing the street through the collected sounds. After the sound as established, we made the video based on the sounds of the street, but in a way that was reminiscent of the way in which we collected these videos, approaching more as a database of sounds and images. W. F. S. from Jorge Silva-Jetter on Vimeo. Through this video, I wanted to try to experience the space through a database. Using rules through which I interacted with the data and in which it was these rules that 'said' something about the street in conjunction with the data. Yet, it wasn't the rules in themselves that created the narrative/meaning of the piece. Meaning emerges from the piece.

Dots: Exploring Binary Uniqueness

These simple animations try to show the relationship between the micro and the macro. This script, loads an image and the proceeds to zoom in and out of it as a way to examine the relationship between its different parts, between the building blocks of the image. At some point, the script reaches one pixel and at that point it begins to zoom out, as a way to see the whole image again. In the scripts 'dots', this zooming does not occur, and it is only when the user click on the screen that you are able to see the whole image. The image becomes much more than the sume of its parts. Seeing its pixels, one by one, does not tell you anything about the image.

One CSS Rule

What would happend if we would experience content through the same design? How does the experience of the web change, when we only have two CSS rules for all the internet? Through this project, I tried to establish 1 (it ended up being two) CSS rules that would apply to ever single content on the web. Subsequently, I quickly decided to add a rule for link, since they are so important for how the web functions. Through this project, I wish to explore how rules in design change the way we experience or interact with a particular content. Mostly, I just wished to see how ridiculous (yes! ridiculous  the idea of a completely universal design was. More than anything, I wished to examine up to what extent we could push this idea and in what ways it would fail. Here it is, 2 CSS rules for the whole internet: html, body, div, span, applet, object, iframe, h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, p, blockquote, pre, a, abbr, acronym, address, big, cite, code, del, dfn, em, img, ins, kbd, q, s, samp, small, strike, strong, sub, sup, tt, var, b, u, i, center, dl, dt, dd, ol, ul, li, fieldset, form, label, legend, table, caption, tbody, tfoot, thead, tr, th, td, article, aside, canvas, details, embed, figure, figcaption, footer, header, hgroup, menu, nav, output, ruby, section, summary, time, mark, audio, video { margin: 0; padding: 0; border: 0; font-size: 100%; font: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; color: green; text-decoration: none; display: inline-block; float: left; border: solid 1px rgba(0,255,0, 0.1); } a { color: yellow; } The problem with his particular instance is that, in order for it to actually start working as a way to browser the internet, I would need to dedicate a couple more hours towards developing the rules in it and seeing how the work. Perhaps, also developing some more rule sets that could be tested out. But, this is really not relevant to what I'm doing with my thesis... so I'll just procrastinate it!

Summer Reflection

Forgetting is sometimes the best way to work on something. When you delegate a task to memory, you are able to keep only the important bits. This summer, I completely forgot my thesis, which is probably the best thing I did. This summer, I worked for a data visualization firm called Fathom. The group consisted of a mix of designers, programmers and hybrids ( such as myself ) interested in data visualization through multiple mediums. I worked on many different projects, I learned many new things in terms of design, programming, business, etc. I was lucky enough to work with a group of very smart talented people who, for the most part, had very similar interests as I did. They were very much interested in design, programming, technology, the future and how it all came together. Yet, there was one difference between them and me, or at least the version of me that wrote my thesis statement. These people told stories. They would say this themselves. Their work was about telling stories and making these stories understandable to people a constant conversation between the micro and the macro. It’s very interesting how many times the word “story” would pop up in conversation at a place where the last thing I thought they did was telling stories. Data visualization never seemed to be about stories to me. On the contrary, it seemed to be directly opposed to stories. This crazy ideas I got from Lev, who wrote: “Indeed, after the death of God (Nietzche), the end of Grand Narratives of Enlightenment (Lyotard), and the arrival of the web (Tim Berners-Lee), the world appears to us and endless and unstructured collection of images, texts and other data records, it is only appropriate that we will be moved to model it as a database” ( The Language of New Media, Lev Manovich ) I loved this book, and this book inspired many of my thesis ideas, but this summer I arrived at the terrible conclusion my dear Lev was wrong. The fact that Nietzche found God dead in his basement didn’t stop anyone from believing in God. The fact that Lyotard stumbled into progress’s, science’s a history’s death certificates, hasn’t stopped most people from believing in them. In the same way, the web and all of technology hasn’t stopped us from believing in stories. We are still, most definitely, human and the language of stories is the language we speak best. We seek stories everywhere. For a long time, I had being searching for a definition of design. It’s very difficult to arrive at a satisfactory definition. Yet, this summer I was able to arrive at one. Design is about humanizing things, about making things for humans. It’s about telling a story where there might not be one. It’s about making one up if you have to! What has changed in my thesis thought? I want to make things more human. I want to tell stories. But, I want to tell stories that pertain to our times using data, rules, programming, systems… If we live in a world dominated by data, databases and systems then how can we make them more human? How can we use design as a tool to highlight the uniqueness of a row in database? How can we make these systems tell stories? The other issue I have become increasingly interested in is the issue of uniqueness. Uniqueness is very uncommon in the technological realm. Everything is uniform, everything has a default. Then, how can we use technology, systems and rules to design in a way that highlights the uniqueness of something? Is it possible to make a system that highlight the uniqueness of something?

Thesis Reading List

Difference and Repetition Reader · Giles Deleuze & Difference and Repetition: A Reader’s Guide · Joe Hughes Through the work of Deleuze, I with to explore, from a metaphysical viewpoint, what it really means to be “different”. Deleuze’s idea that identity is only a secondary quality, following difference drastically changes the scope of my thesis ideas. One of the main ideas behind my thesis is the problem of uniqueness in the Information Age, and Deleuze’s ideas might shed some light on questioning what is uniqueness in the first place. Programming Collective Intelligence: Building Smart Web 2.0 Applications ·Toby Segaran Having read parts of this book before, I wish to further understand some of the methods and ideas proposed in it. The book deals with ways in which programming is able to extract meaningful information out of immense data sets. I see my thesis as a design equivalent of sorts, meant to questions how design can do similar things. I also wish to incorporate some of the technical aspects dealt in this book into my own projects. Information Anxiety · Richard Saul Wurman Having read part of this book, I find Wurman’s ideas very relevant to my own work. Wurman deals with the problem of too much information and deals with different ways to approach this problem. My thesis deals with a similar problem, mainly, the issue of uniqueness within ‘information overload’. Wurman’s theories will be helpful in trying to explore alternative ways of visually exploring this problem. The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood · James Gleick The reason why I wish to include this book is because of its many historical references to the history of Information Theory. Including great scientists like Claude Shannon and many other previous precedents to Information Theory, I feel that this understanding the history of information and Information Theory might help me gain a deeper historical perspective of the Information Age that will help inform my visual work.

Abstract: Design Through the Loop

This is an abstract for a paper I will present in the ICDHS 2012 conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It is basically about the use of programing in graphic design as an alternative methodology.   Title: Design through the loop: Creating through programing in the field of graphic design Keywords: graphic design, programming, computation, dynamic design, new media, digital design, digital aesthetics Abstract: The digital sphere has granted us the greatest computational power ever known to the human race. Yet, in the field of graphic design the computer is used merely as a tool of visual reproduction, where what was formerly done with the pencil is now done with the mouse. A new generation of hybrid designers bridge the gap between design and programming, incorporating the vast computational power of the digital realm as a new tool. This paper deals with the issue of design through the creation of software and the changing nature of aesthetics in the information age. Examples of historical and contemporary practices in which visual form and code are at the core of the design process are examined. Particular importance is given to dynamic design, overcoming the traditional character of graphic design.

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